Why is My Turtle Not Eating?

Turtle owners will commonly experience the problem of their pet not eating. This has happened to me several times with multiple turtles. I wrote this guide to help other people who are experiencing this problem.

What is wrong with my turtle? Your turtle may not be eating for several reasons. There may be something wrong with the temperature, your turtle may be stressed, or your turtle could be scared.

Let’s go over each reason separately and see if any of them are the cause for you.

7 Most Common Reasons Why A Turtle Is Not Eating

Wrong Food

Turtles eat a variety of different foods. As with any animal, some are more preferred than others.

According to what I observed in my turtles, they prefer to eat live prey over everything else, followed by pellets, meat, fruits and vegetables.

It is very wrong to expect your turtle to eat pellets if you feed them only live prey and meat for several months.

Turtles need a varied diet consisting of live prey, meat, pellets, fruits, and vegetables. If you only provide them with their favorite food, they won’t eat anything else. Turtles should consume fruits and vegetables like watermelon, spinach, etc, regularly to stay healthy, because they play a vital role in their diet.

It will be difficult to get your turtle to eat anything else if you feed them only meat for a long time.

It is most effective to get rid of this problem by taking a tuna can and taking all the tuna out of it while leaving the oil, water and juices from the fish in it. After that, you can place some food pellets inside the can and let them soak up all the juices there. Then, you can feed them to your turtle. Because of the fish oils and smells, they will think the pellets are meat.

Keep mixing regular pellets that have not been in a tuna can with these pellets for a while. Test your turtle’s reaction occasionally when you feed it only normal pellets. Hopefully you will be able to feed your turtle a normal diet from now on if she eats them. You can keep repeating the tuna can thing until you get the desired response. You shouldn’t have to wait more than a couple of weeks.

Once your turtle begins eating pellets again, you should give her a more varied diet and only give live prey like mealworms as a treat once or twice a month.


Turtles are very prone to stress. A lot of things can stress them out, including excessive sounds, other animals, and improper handling.

Whenever you turtle is stressed, he or she will stop eating until he or she has calmed down. In addition, a lack of activity makes them act differently than they usually do. Most turtles will either stop moving or try to get out of the tank when stressed.

All sources of stress must be eliminated in this situation. I will provide you with a few examples of how turtles can be stressed. The proximity of a loud stereo system to the turtle’s tank will cause the turtle a lot of stress.

It can also cause stress if your cat or dog keeps trying to enter the tank. Turning your turtle around like a basketball can be extremely stressful. Put yourself in the turtle’s shoes and you will be able to determine if something is bothering it. If you think something stresses you, it is sure to stress the turtle.

The turtle should start eating again shortly after you remove the source of the stress.

Dirty Water

In the same way that humans don’t like eating off of a very dirty table, turtles don’t like eating in very dirty water.

Turtles can have a lot of problems due to dirty water. You need to clean your turtle’s tank every week. Failure to do so will result in them not eating, and even developing a variety of health problems.

There is no alternative to cleaning the tank.

You can still do a few things. For example, get a more powerful water pump or give them food they can eat only in one bite, or feed them in a separate container if there is no other option.

After trying many methods, I believe that feeding your turtles in a different container is the most effective. This can be accomplished by taking one of the turtles and putting it in a separate container filled with water, and then feeding it in that container.

Let them stay in the tank for 10 minutes after they have eaten, and then return them to the tank. It is recommended that you feed more turtles one by one, and never all at once, as they will fight over food if you take them all at once.

This method only has one disadvantage: you have to begin using it while your turtle is still very young. Turtles that are older are already used to eating in the aquarium, so moving them somewhere else might cause them to get scared and stop eating.

As a passive solution, getting a better water filter is the second best method. There are different ratings for water filters, such as 30 gallons, 40 gallons, 60 gallons, etc. A turtle tank and a water filter should have double the power they need. For example, if your water tank is 30 gallons, then your water filter needs to be 60 gallons. You will need an 80 gallon water filter for a 40 gallon tank.

Normally, filters are rated according to their volume with fish in mind, but turtles are much messier. The filtering power is therefore doubled.

dirty turtle tank

Water Temperature

The turtle is a cold blooded animal, which means it does not produce body heat and relies on its surroundings to maintain body temperature.

Your turtle can get sick if the temperature of the water is too cold, because it cannot digest the food properly.

Species differ significantly in how hot or cold their water is. However, it’s generally between 75 and 80 degrees Fahrenheit ( 24 and 27 degrees Celsius). If you keep the temperature of the water between 75 and 80 degrees, your turtles will begin eating again very soon.

Basking Area

Turtles gain most of their body heat from basking, as well as the UVB rays that they need for survival.

Your turtle may stop eating and develop health problems if the basking area is either too cold or too hot. However, this problem is easily fixed. The basking area needs only a few tweaks in order to produce the perfect amount of heat.

Likewise, the temperature of the basking area will differ depending on the species of turtle you have. As long as the temperature stays between 85 and 90 degrees Fahrenheit ( 29 and 32 degrees Celsius ), your turtle shouldn’t have any problems.

You can read this complete guide to lighting and heating a turtle tank and basking area if you would like to learn more about turtle heating and lighting.


During the first few days inside their new home, it is quite common for turtles to not eat much.

Turtles might be stressed out when they move to a new home. They will move from a small, cramped tank that they shared with multiple turtles, to another one where they will be able to live alone. They will be even more stressed out if they are sent through the mail.

This means that you need to give your turtle some time to calm down a little. The turtle will start eating again after about a week when it becomes accustomed to the new environment. If this happens, there is nothing you can do, just be sure that you give them food every day, so that they can decide if it is safe to eat.


Pregnant turtles will act very strangely, they will stop eating, they will stop basking, they will dig everywhere.

Pregnant turtles cannot be made to eat. She will eat if you provide her with food.
Even if there is no male around, turtles can get pregnant. Unlike fertilized eggs, they won’t give birth to a child when they’re laid. It is still possible to lay eggs even if only a female turtle is present.


As you can see there are a number of reasons why your pet turtle may stop eating. Once you determine what the root cause is, then you can take the necessary steps to fix it. Have any experiences with turtles not eating? Comment below with how you fixed it.